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Archimedes'

principle

Archimedes' principle states that the

upward buoyant force that is exerted on a
body immersed in a ﬂuid, whether fully or
partially submerged, is equal to the weight
of the ﬂuid that the body displaces and
acts in the upward direction at the center
of mass of the displaced ﬂuid.
Archimedes' principle is a law of physics
fundamental to ﬂuid mechanics. It was
formulated by Archimedes of Syracuse.

Explanation
In On Floating Bodies, Archimedes
suggested that (c. 250 BC):

Any object, wholly or partially

immersed in a stationary ﬂuid, is
buoyed up by an upthrust equal
to the weight of the ﬂuid
displaced by the object.
Formula
Consider a cube immersed in a ﬂuid, with
its sides parallel to the direction of gravity.
The ﬂuid will exert a normal force on each
face, and therefore only the forces on the
top and bottom faces will contribute to
buoyancy. The pressure difference
between the bottom and the top face is
directly proportional to the height
(difference in depth). Multiplying the
pressure difference by the area of a face
gives the net force on the cube – the
buoyancy, or the weight of the ﬂuid
displaced. By extending this reasoning to
irregular shapes, we can see that,
whatever the shape of the submerged
body, the buoyant force is equal to the
weight of the ﬂuid displaced.

The weight of the displaced ﬂuid is directly

proportional to the volume of the
displaced ﬂuid (if the surrounding ﬂuid is
of uniform density). The weight of the
object in the ﬂuid is reduced, because of
the force acting on it, which is called
upthrust. In simple terms, the principle
states that the buoyant force on an object
is equal to the weight of the ﬂuid displaced
by the object, or the density of the ﬂuid
multiplied by the submerged volume times
the gravitational constant, g. Thus, among
completely submerged objects with equal
masses, objects with greater volume have
greater buoyancy.

Suppose a rock's weight is measured as

10 newtons when suspended by a string in
a vacuum with gravity acting on it.
Suppose that, when the rock is lowered
into water, it displaces water of weight 3
newtons. The force it then exerts on the
string from which it hangs would be 10
newtons minus the 3 newtons of buoyant
force: 10 − 3 = 7 newtons. Buoyancy
reduces the apparent weight of objects
that have sunk completely to the sea ﬂoor.
It is generally easier to lift an object up
through the water than it is to pull it out of
the water.

For a fully submerged object, Archimedes'

principle can be reformulated as follows:

then inserted into the quotient of weights,

which has been expanded by the mutual
volume

yields the formula below. The density of

the immersed object relative to the density
of the ﬂuid can easily be calculated
without measuring any volume is

(This formula is used for example in

describing the measuring principle of a
dasymeter and of hydrostatic weighing.)

Example: If you drop wood into water,

buoyancy will keep it aﬂoat.

Example: A helium balloon in a moving car.

When increasing speed or driving in a
curve, the air moves in the opposite
direction to the car's acceleration.
However, due to buoyancy, the balloon is
pushed "out of the way" by the air, and will
actually drift in the same direction as the
car's acceleration.

When an object is immersed in a liquid, the

liquid exerts an upward force, which is
known as the buoyant force, that is
proportional to the weight of the displaced
liquid. The sum force acting on the object,
then, is equal to the difference between
the weight of the object ('down' force) and
the weight of displaced liquid ('up' force).
Equilibrium, or neutral buoyancy, is
achieved when these two weights (and
thus forces) are equal.
Reﬁnements
Archimedes' principle does not consider
the surface tension (capillarity) acting on
the body. Moreover, Archimedes'
principle has been found to break down in
complex ﬂuids.

Principle of ﬂotation
Archimedes' principle shows buoyant
force and displacement of ﬂuid. However,
the concept of Archimedes' principle can
be applied when considering why objects
ﬂoat. Proposition 5 of Archimedes' treatise
On Floating Bodies states that:
Any ﬂoating object displaces its
own weight of ﬂuid.

— Archimedes of Syracuse

In other words, for an object ﬂoating on a

liquid surface (like a boat) or ﬂoating
submerged in a ﬂuid (like a submarine in
water or dirigible in air) the weight of the
displaced liquid equals the weight of the
object. Thus, only in the special case of
ﬂoating does the buoyant force acting on
an object equal the objects weight.
Consider a 1-ton block of solid iron. As
iron is nearly eight times as dense as
water, it displaces only 1/8 ton of water
when submerged, which is not enough to
keep it aﬂoat. Suppose the same iron
block is reshaped into a bowl. It still
weighs 1 ton, but when it is put in water, it
displaces a greater volume of water than
when it was a block. The deeper the iron
bowl is immersed, the more water it
displaces, and the greater the buoyant
force acting on it. When the buoyant force
equals 1 ton, it will sink no farther.

When any boat displaces a weight of water

equal to its own weight, it ﬂoats. This is
often called the "principle of ﬂotation": A
ﬂoating object displaces a weight of ﬂuid
equal to its own weight. Every ship,
submarine, and dirigible must be designed
to displace a weight of ﬂuid at least equal
to its own weight. A 10,000-ton ship's hull
must be built wide enough, long enough
and deep enough to displace 10,000 tons
of water and still have some hull above the
water to prevent it from sinking. It needs
extra hull to ﬁght waves that would
otherwise ﬁll it and, by increasing its mass,
cause it to submerge. The same is true for
vessels in air: a dirigible that weighs 100
tons needs to displace 100 tons of air. If it
displaces more, it rises; if it displaces less,
it falls. If the dirigible displaces exactly its
weight, it hovers at a constant altitude.
It is important to realize that, while they
are related to it, the principle of ﬂotation
and the concept that a submerged object
displaces a volume of ﬂuid equal to its
own volume are not Archimedes' principle.
Archimedes' principle, as stated above,
equates the buoyant force to the weight of
the ﬂuid displaced.

One common point of confusion regarding

Archimedes' principle is the meaning of
displaced volume. Common
demonstrations involve measuring the rise
in water level when an object ﬂoats on the
surface in order to calculate the displaced
water. This measurement approach fails
with a buoyant submerged object because
the rise in the water level is directly related
to the volume of the object and not the
mass (except if the effective density of the
object equals exactly the ﬂuid density).
Another common point of confusion
regarding Archimedes' principle is that it
only applies to ﬂoating objects that are
buoyant, not sunk objects. In the case of a
sunk object the mass of displaced ﬂuid is
less than the mass of the object.

"Eureka", reportedly exclaimed by
Archimedes upon discovery that the
volume of displaced ﬂuid is equal to the
volume of the submerged object (note
that this idea is not Archimedes'
principle)

References
1. Acott, Chris (1999). "The diving "Law-
ers": A brief resume of their lives" . South
Paciﬁc Underwater Medicine Society
journal. 29 (1). ISSN 0813-1988 .
OCLC 16986801 . Retrieved 2009-06-13.
2. "Floater clustering in a standing wave:
Capillarity effects drive hydrophilic or
hydrophobic particles to congregate at
speciﬁc points on a wave" (PDF). 2005-06-
23.
3. "Archimedes’s principle gets updated".
R. Mark Wilson, Physics Today 65(9), 15
(2012); doi:10.1063/PT.3.1701
4. "The works of Archimedes" . p. 257.
Retrieved 11 March 2010. “Any solid
lighter than a ﬂuid will, if placed in the
ﬂuid, be so far immersed that the weight
of the solid will be equal to the weight of
the ﬂuid displaced.”